It was a peaceful Saturday in 2015 in one of Vancouver’s most affluent enclaves when a Chinese immigrant told police he snapped. He shot dead his bullying, philandering relative outside the victims $6 million hillside mansion, then he chopped the body into 108 pieces.
Judge Terence Schultes of the Supreme Court of British Columbia sentenced Zhao Li, now 60, to ten years and six months in jail after his conviction for manslaughter and interfering with human remains.
In January, the judge shocked Canadian legal professionals when he ruled that Zhao Li was not culpable of murder.
Under Canadian law, he could have been condemned to life in jail for manslaughter.
Zhao Li had been in custody for more than five years after killing Yuan Gang, his business associate and a family member.
The judge said, with each day in custody counting as 1.5 days towards his sentence, Zhao Li had two years, four months and eight days left to serve.
Chris Johnson, a lawyer who represented the estate of Yuang Gang, called the lurid case, which generated headlines in Canada and China, a cautionary tale about retribution and the corruptibility of money.
He said that the crimes were extremely startling to Canadians because of the bold nature of the offence, in broad daylight in one of Vancouver’s most affluent areas and that the method of the killing was brutal.
Justice Schultes noted the violence of the crime and observed that the dismemberment of the body was undoubtedly bizarre, adding that its clinical coldness and dispassion were extremely morally culpable.
He said his ruling was predicted on Zhao Li’s not having a criminal record and the guilt he’d shown.
When announcing the verdict in January, the judge said that while the crime was gruesome, he’d been left with reasonable doubt over whether Zhao Li planned to kill Yuan Gang. Intent to kill is the prerequisite for a murder verdict in Canada.
The trial, which took place in front of a judge rather than a jury, as agreed to by both the defence and the prosecution, shined a spotlight on how Vancouver has become host to wealthy foreigners, who use it as a sanctuary for cash and kin.
In the case of Yuan Li, he’d been entangled in a corruption scandal in China before acquiring permanent residency in Canada.
The case presented two opposing narratives. In the first, Zhao Li, whose wife was Yuan Gang’s cousin, was described by the defence as an unassuming and law-abiding man who exploded when Yuan Gang asked to marry his daughter.
But prosecutors described Zhao Li as a venomous and violent aggressor.
He cut up the body with an electric hand saw and hid the right arm in a meat freezer in the garage at the mansion.
You can bet your bottom dollar that if this man had been poor, his sentence would have been more hefty – justice might be blind, but it can definitely smell money a mile off and the sentence was extremely light for such a horrific crime.